August 17, 2006

Insulza, politics and fingerprinting machines

Katy says: I was driving in traffic today when, on the radio, people were talking about a speech OAS Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza made a few days ago at the General Convention of Chile's Socialist Party. Insulza was more or less saying that Chile's success was more political than economic, reminding people of the old adage that the only way to advance in politics is to negotiate and compromise.

Insulza is a guy who got the right-wing opposition to vote in favor or dismantling most of the reforms in Pinochet's constitution, so he certainly knows what he is talking about. Since I was stuck in traffic, my mind started wandering and I began thinking about fingerprinting machines.

Yesterday, CNE President Tibisay Lucena insisted that voters could not refuse to use fingerprinting machines when voting, as CNE director Vicente Díaz had suggested a few days earlier. For whatever reason, chavistas are dead set against doing away with these machine, no matter how unreliable or expensive they are.

The opposition's case against the machines is three-fold. We allege that the machines violate the secrecy of the vote, that they allow the CNE to observe in real time who has voted and who hasn't, and that they are not reliable enough to prevent people from voting multiple times.

The second point is apparently a non-issue, since the CNE has hinted that the machines will work off-line the day of the election. The first point I will not address here since I don't know the technical details of what can be done to prevent the sequence of the vote from being recorded.

But here's a thought on the third point: why don't opposition representatives propose the use of both fingerprinting machines and indelible ink? Our side's argument has been that double voting was never a real issue since everyone had to dip their pinkies in indelible ink to vote. If chavistas are simply not going to negotiate regarding the machines, then why not use both methods at the same time?

It's a no-lose proposal. The CNE could not possibly come up with a credible reason to deny the use of ink alongside the use of the machines. If the purpose is to prevent double voting, then what is the problem with having an extra safeguard? This one is relatively inexpensive, widely used internationally and one which our side is comfortable with. It is also something Venezuelans are familiar with.

In order to advance, we will have to meet the CNE halfway. The best way to do it is by putting forward proposals that point in the same direction of the positions the CNE is publicly assuming. It will be difficult -though not impossible- for them to say no to this.